- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Pentagon’s most secure laboratories may have mislabeled, improperly stored and shipped samples of the deadly plague bacteria, according to new reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC flagged the practices during inspections last month at an Army lab in Maryland, prompting an emergency ban on research on all bioterror pathogens at nine labs run by the Pentagon, USA Today reported.

The revelation comes on the heels of similar reports in May that another Army lab in Utah had mishandled anthrax samples for 10 years. 

Pentagon officials stressed that Army Secretary John McHugh ordered the research moratorium on Sept. 2 out of caution. 

Officials also said that continuing testing has shown the suspect samples of plague contain a weakened version of the bacteria and not the fully virulent form that was of concern to lab regulators at the CDC, USA Today reported. 

A senior defense department official, speaking on condition on anonymity, said there is no danger to the public from the plague specimens found in the labs. After extensive testing, no danger has been found to scientists and researchers who have worked with the vials. Final test results are expected at the end of the month.

The bacterium that cause plague, Yersinia pestis, can cause several types of potentially fatal illnesses: bubonic plague, pneumonic plague and septicemic plague. It’s also the pathogen blamed for the Black Death that killed millions of people in Europe in the 14th century.

Today antibiotics can be used to treat illnesses caused by plague, but the virus still kills about 11 percent of those infected, according to the CDC.

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